With so many digital video formats to choose from, it can be overwhelming narrowing down your options. I am going to cover my choices for the best formats, and discuss them briefly.
Flash Video (flv, swf) Most of the “tube” sites out there use FLV to deliver video directly on a web page without the need for the end user to download a player or movie. Once properly coded into HTML, a Flash Video file will simply play when a user accesses a page. With over 97% of all internet users having the Flash Player installed, Flash Video is the clear choice for mass distribution of video on web pages. Flash Video is getting better but in order to play while downloading, the video needs to be highly compressed and frames must be removed. Most flash videos are stripped to 15 frames per second (FPS). Compare that to DVD or Television at 29.97 FPS.
MPEG-4/H.264/x.264 (mp4, m4v, mov) When encoded properly, MPEG4 videos will play on most portable video players and computers. There are subtle differences between acceptable MPEG4 formats for each player. For instance a video encoded for Apple TV will work on the ipod, itunes and iphone and some firmware versions of the Sony PSP but not all. MPEG4 is a fantastic format because it allows both outstanding video/audio quality and smaller file sizes than its predecessors. This is one of my favorite formats because it compresses quickly and makes what I consider to be the nicest looking video. Most MPEG4 videos play at a full frame rate of 29.97 FPS. MPEG4 allows for various HD and SD resolutions.
Windows Media (wmv) Another common format is Windows Media since everyone with a copy of Windows 98 or better can view at least some version of a Windows Media file. A solid compression format that users have grown to expect when downloading content. I am not personally a fan of this format because I find it takes large file sizes to produce the same picture quality as an MPEG4 video and is slow to compress. Windows Media is highly compatible with Windows users and offers flexibility with HD and SD resolutions. Most WMV videos play at 29.97 FPS.
MPEG-1 (mpg) Almost as old as the internet itself, MPEG-1 is one of the most playable formats available. Windows Media Player, Real Player, Quicktime, VLC and dozens of other video players out there will instantly recognize MPEG-1 out of the box. Being an older video format means MPEG-1 really performs best at lower resolutions (352×240). Trying to make it larger often results in ugly videos even at the largest file sizes. MPEG-1 normally plays at 29.97 or 24 FPS. MPEG-1 is best used for SD resolutions.
Written by: Brad Gosse – Do not copy without permission